Northern Ireland Assembly fails to elect new First or Deputy First Minister

Gerry Adams has ruled out the possibility of senior Sinn Féin figures in the south contesting the upcoming Stormont elections

Northern Ireland Assembly fails to elect new First or Deputy First Minister

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Updated 14:25

The Northern Ireland Assembly has officially failed to elect a new First or Deputy First Minister.

The failure to pick successors to Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness paves the way for an election to be called tonight.

The DUP selected Arlene Foster for a third term as First Minister, but Sinn Féin said it would not put someone forward to serve as Deputy - meaning neither job can be filled.

An election has to be called if the positions are not filled within a week. Mr McGuinness resigned last Monday.

Speaking ahead of today's Assembly meeting, Mrs Foster said: "The Assembly will be dissolved in the next number of days, and that of course is deeply regrettable that Northern Ireland will have no Assembly and functioning executive over the coming period.

"Northern Ireland does not need, nor does its people want, an election," she suggested, highlighting the need for stable government amid the triggering of Article 50, the new US administration and a 'volatile' global economic environment.

She also claimed that Sinn Féin is looking to "pursue political self-interest," adding: "They did not like the election result last May, and therefore they are looking to have another go at the election."

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said Mr McGuinness has made his intentions known to him on whether he will contest the upcoming election - with an announcement due "soon."

Mr Adams has ruled out the possibility of senior party figures quitting their seats in the Dáil to contest the northern elections - nor will he be doing so himself:

"I am honoured to represent the people of Louth," he said. "We have a job of work in this state to do and it falls on me to be part of that."

"We are blessed that right across the entire island we have a very, very good cadre of representatives across the island to press in both jurisdictions and also nationally."

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill says it's time for the people to have their say:

The current instability has come amid continued controversy over the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Despite calls from Sinn Féin and opposition groups, DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster has refused to stand aside during an investigation into the scheme, which was introduced when she was enterprise minister.

The RHI was designed to encourage businesses to replace older heating sources with more eco-friendly alternatives.

A lack of cost controls meant businesses were receiving more in subsidies than they were paying for renewable fuel, and the scheme was drastically oversubscribed.

It has been claimed the scheme could cost Northern Ireland taxpayers more than stg£400m (€539m).